On Saturday 7th February 2020 a group of people from my area including me were invited to visit the Dongri Children’s Home.
After the initial introductions at the Dongri Police Station, a couple of photographs and a nice cup of warm ginger milk tea we were taken to the children’s home via the police vehicle. With childlike wonder in my eyes and a playful laughter we observed passerby wonder what the hell was going on.
The Superintendent of the Dongri Children’s home gave us a brief introduction. History goes that the building that now houses delinquent and destitute children used to be the famous Dongri Jail, where freedom fighters such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar and Veer Savarkar were held captive during the British rule.
Today the home houses children in the age group of 13-17. Those in conflict with the law share space with those in need of care and protection. The home can house around 350 – 400 children at any given time. It may be noted here that the children apprehended to this home generally have the background of a street life and so they are prone to many ailments. Every child therefore needs a thorough medical check up upon admission and treatment when needed. Many times, those who are affected with diseases of serious nature have to be given a long term treatment. The Home has its own hospital, resident Medical Officer and Staff Nurses. Those who are affected with serious sicknesses are admitted to the Government Hospitals for necessary treatment. For convalescence, the child is kept in the indoor hospital. The home is aimed at correction and not punishment.
Regarded as the biggest Children’s Home in Asia. Every day, lost children are restored to their parents, those run away are sent back to their home towns however remote delinquent children are released on bail or on probation of good conduct or sent to correctional institutions. These institutions are simply not well funded so donations are always welcome.
We ended the visit by a scrumptious vegetarian lunch organised by the ACP of the Dongri Police Station. I left the premises haunted by bittersweet memories.